Individual credit history

Beyond data credit scoring: Individual Financial Reputation

The Rise of ‘bad credit’ mortgages: complicated history leads to low score

Buying a house seems an impossibility for millions of people in the UK, studies have shown. Increasing property prices and untrustworthy credit score systems are positioning Britons further away from the goal of owning a property. The solution? A system that allows customers to explain their side of their credit histories, laying out the facts and circumstances behind the numbers.

In Britain, many worry about getting a mortgage, especially the millennial generation, which has witnessed house prices skyrocketing while wages have only stagnated. Given these conditions, hopeful buyers are finding themselves lacking in finance options.

Indeed, according to Moneyfacts, the number of bad credit mortgages in the UK has risen by 118 in the six months ending in September. Bad credit mortgages are schemes designed to help those with poor credit scores to buy property, currently representing 17% of the mortgage market. Those with very poor credit history will need a deposit of 35% to enter the programme.

These schemes, however, come with higher rates, putting the lender at increased risk. In September, Moneyfacts reported that the bad credit mortgage rate is currently at 4.52%, whereas the average rate of a two-year fixed rate mortgage is at 2.54%.

It is also worth bearing in mind that in the gig economy, income is rarely a fixed entity. Many workers are freelancers, or working on ‘zero-hour’ contracts. Research from Online Mortgage Advisor revealed that a third of respondents believe that having a zero-hour contract could be a barrier to securing a mortgage.

The current mood among hopeful house buyers is indeed pessimistic: nearly 13 million Britons don’t believe they would be able to get a mortgage.

The poll from Comparethemarket found that 45% of mortgage seekers who had their application denied said this had a negative impact on their credit score.

“You are right to be worried that your credit card debt could see you turned down for a mortgage,” said Virginia Walls, mortgage expert at the Guardian.

“You are also right that when you make a full mortgage application, you will face questions about your credit cards and may even have to show recent statements. You will also be asked detailed questions about other regular expenditure to help the lender decide whether you will be able to afford a mortgage on top of all your other financial commitments.”

Credit history is more than a number, it is about individual financial reputation and credibility.

Credit history is built on a variety of aspects, such as payment history, outstanding balances, length of credit history, and types of credit accounts. A lower credit score means that one is less able to secure a mortgage or a loan, as well as having to pay higher interest rates when credit is granted.

Individual Financial profiles are put together from black-and-white data, stark facts, with no subjective assessment. If an individual is in debt, with considerable outgoings and no family support, many forms of credit — including mortgages — may prove inaccessible. The same individual might also be facing divorce or serious illness, with all their associated costs. Savings may have been poured into education.

However, none of this background information is currently taken into account as mitigating circumstances by credit scorers. Although undeniably relevant to an individual’s financial situation, such circumstances do not ‘count’ in the final assessmen.

The root of the problem is in the system that builds an individual’s credit history. Personal finance and savings are fluid information, after all, people manage their wealth according to their priorities at any given time, so applying a figure to certify an individual’s credibility seems a shallow solution. It does not reflect wealth, which may have been accumulated in other forms than cash, or unforeseen circumstances over which one has no control.

Such a system often proves to be unfair for the average person and can do more harm than good when it comes to looking for financial support. We need a tool that allows this ‘human’ information to be implemented, a mechanism that will give individuals the opportunity to provide information beyond the figures on their credit histories. It is therefore right that consumers should be able to provide a personal take on the way they have managed their own finances, in order to be assessed more fairly.

Is it possible to have a more inclusive individual credit scoring with more accurate data to include individual’s opinion and truth?

Perceiving the need for a more holistic approach to credit ratings today, UK technology company Right of Reply is introducing its ‘Reply on Credit Check’ (RoCC) platform, which works alongside credit agencies to implement a layer of individual statement on credit history, and response to negative content.

“Right of Reply has developed a unique platform, ROCC, that offers specific services and tools to credit agencies and individuals aiming for a fairer credit scoring data and information. It allows a registered individual to amend their own credit report and credit rating with narrative information to correct errors or explain events in that credit report, and to contextualise or justify any debt position expressed in the credit report.

The credit agency will benefit from this corrected information as it will reduce their legal responsibilities, and because they will offer their client a more precise report that takes into account the point of view of the debtor.

We believe that individuals should have the opportunity to ‘tell their truth’ in response to any negative/inaccurate online content and any inaccurate Credit Report or Financial History that could be damaging for their reputation and personal lives.” commented Stefania Barbaglio, Right of Reply PR and UK Development.

Individual credit history

Beyond data credit scoring: Individual Financial Reputation

The Rise of ‘bad credit’ mortgages: complicated history leads to low score

Buying a house seems an impossibility for millions of people in the UK, studies have shown. Increasing property prices and untrustworthy credit score systems are positioning Britons further away from the goal of owning a property. The solution? A system that allows customers to explain their side of their credit histories, laying out the facts and circumstances behind the numbers.

In Britain, many worry about getting a mortgage, especially the millennial generation, which has witnessed house prices skyrocketing while wages have only stagnated. Given these conditions, hopeful buyers are finding themselves lacking in finance options.

Indeed, according to Moneyfacts, the number of bad credit mortgages in the UK has risen by 118 in the six months ending in September. Bad credit mortgages are schemes designed to help those with poor credit scores to buy property, currently representing 17% of the mortgage market. Those with very poor credit history will need a deposit of 35% to enter the programme.

These schemes, however, come with higher rates, putting the lender at increased risk. In September, Moneyfacts reported that the bad credit mortgage rate is currently at 4.52%, whereas the average rate of a two-year fixed rate mortgage is at 2.54%.

It is also worth bearing in mind that in the gig economy, income is rarely a fixed entity. Many workers are freelancers, or working on ‘zero-hour’ contracts. Research from Online Mortgage Advisor revealed that a third of respondents believe that having a zero-hour contract could be a barrier to securing a mortgage.

The current mood among hopeful house buyers is indeed pessimistic: nearly 13 million Britons don’t believe they would be able to get a mortgage.

The poll from Comparethemarket found that 45% of mortgage seekers who had their application denied said this had a negative impact on their credit score.

“You are right to be worried that your credit card debt could see you turned down for a mortgage,” said Virginia Walls, mortgage expert at the Guardian.

“You are also right that when you make a full mortgage application, you will face questions about your credit cards and may even have to show recent statements. You will also be asked detailed questions about other regular expenditure to help the lender decide whether you will be able to afford a mortgage on top of all your other financial commitments.”

Credit history is more than a number, it is about individual financial reputation and credibility.

Credit history is built on a variety of aspects, such as payment history, outstanding balances, length of credit history, and types of credit accounts. A lower credit score means that one is less able to secure a mortgage or a loan, as well as having to pay higher interest rates when credit is granted.

Individual Financial profiles are put together from black-and-white data, stark facts, with no subjective assessment. If an individual is in debt, with considerable outgoings and no family support, many forms of credit — including mortgages — may prove inaccessible. The same individual might also be facing divorce or serious illness, with all their associated costs. Savings may have been poured into education.

However, none of this background information is currently taken into account as mitigating circumstances by credit scorers. Although undeniably relevant to an individual’s financial situation, such circumstances do not ‘count’ in the final assessmen.

The root of the problem is in the system that builds an individual’s credit history. Personal finance and savings are fluid information, after all, people manage their wealth according to their priorities at any given time, so applying a figure to certify an individual’s credibility seems a shallow solution. It does not reflect wealth, which may have been accumulated in other forms than cash, or unforeseen circumstances over which one has no control.

Such a system often proves to be unfair for the average person and can do more harm than good when it comes to looking for financial support. We need a tool that allows this ‘human’ information to be implemented, a mechanism that will give individuals the opportunity to provide information beyond the figures on their credit histories. It is therefore right that consumers should be able to provide a personal take on the way they have managed their own finances, in order to be assessed more fairly.

Is it possible to have a more inclusive individual credit scoring with more accurate data to include individual’s opinion and truth?

Perceiving the need for a more holistic approach to credit ratings today, UK technology company Right of Reply is introducing its ‘Reply on Credit Check’ (RoCC) platform, which works alongside credit agencies to implement a layer of individual statement on credit history, and response to negative content.

“Right of Reply has developed a unique platform, ROCC, that offers specific services and tools to credit agencies and individuals aiming for a fairer credit scoring data and information. It allows a registered individual to amend their own credit report and credit rating with narrative information to correct errors or explain events in that credit report, and to contextualise or justify any debt position expressed in the credit report.

The credit agency will benefit from this corrected information as it will reduce their legal responsibilities, and because they will offer their client a more precise report that takes into account the point of view of the debtor.

We believe that individuals should have the opportunity to ‘tell their truth’ in response to any negative/inaccurate online content and any inaccurate Credit Report or Financial History that could be damaging for their reputation and personal lives.” commented Stefania Barbaglio, Right of Reply PR and UK Development.

Farmer 3.0 Africa: Block Commodities integrating small-scale farming into the global market

In Africa, building a more sustainable and equal society means empowering smallholder farmers, who make up 70% of the continent’s labour force. For this to happen, a new system is essential, and technology is here to lead the way.

Agriculture is the principal economic activity in Africa, employing 70% of the continent’s population Smallholder farming is the backbone of African agriculture, since 90% of farming output comes from small-scale producers.

However, we can’t take these figures at face value. Africa is actually a net food importer, with its annual bill of $35billion estimated to reach as much as $110 billion by 2025. In a continent of more than 30 million square km, land availability is not the problem. The hindrances to economic growth lie in poor management of land resources, along with inefficient banking practices bound in red tape, leaving most of the farming population on the margins of financial inclusion.

With interest rates going as high as 40%, most smallholder farmers are unable to afford the fertilisers, seeds and equipment they need to scale up production. On top of that, many farmers are out of physical reach of financial services: in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa, institutions such as banks and insurers cover only 14% of the population.

Lack of information, poor transparency, severely limited access to funding and financial incentives, and inefficient trading practices hold back farmers’ production by 50% of its potential.

Moreover, unnecessary bureaucracy and the cost of middlemen traders across the supply, together with inconsistent record keeping, create an inefficient system where farmers’ direct access to money and resources is limited, information on input and sources is not clear, and duplications are common.

Not only does financial exclusion hold back farmers from growing their production, it also prevents them from climbing out of poverty, since without the right tools, they cannot produce at a sufficient level for commerce.

Building a new sustainable ecosystem with innovation: New technologies are pivotal in creating the farms of the future.

The long-established agricultural system in Africa has only addressed the external needs and interests of commercial players. It is about time we developed an ecosystem which prioritises the people of Africa. To make change happen, it is crucial that smallholder farmers have access to the information, resources and tools necessary to enable them to grow production and enter the trading market.

Fortunately, emerging technologies such as blockchain and decentralised systems are able to promote financial inclusion by eliminating the need for banks and middlemen. When using cryptocurrencies, for example, interest rates can be lowered to approximately 10% and accounts can be managed from a mobile phone. Indeed, the rapid technology take-up in Africa is exemplary, with internet user in Africa increasing by 20% over the last year and mobile money being a critical alternative of payment method.

Technology allows farmers to make and receive payments with no restrictions of place or time, giving them flexibility and power over their transactions. At the same time, there is full accountability: transparency and record keeping of all transactions.

“When we look at the farming and agriculture landscape in Africa, in terms of production and economy, we see there has been great exclusion of small-scale farmers from the market. 90% of food for the continent comes from European commercial farmers. Block works to integrate smallholder farmers into the system and give them access to the markets by adding value to their practices,” says Clinton Van Eden, head of Africa operations of Block Commodities, a leading agritech company operating in sub-Saharan Africa.

Beyond finance, innovative technologies are also set to educate and bring information to farmers more rapidly and easily. As a decentralised network, blockchain allows all transactions to be recorded openly, including input and output of all products, selling prices and costs throughout the supply chain.

This transparency will be a decisive factor for a consuming market which is becoming more socially and environmentally conscious.

The intercontinental manufacturing system currently in place implies that the multi-layered supply chains surpass geographical boundaries, resulting in a lack of transparency and accountability. Consumers have limited knowledge and understanding of the manufacturing process, allowing for flaws and gaps to go unnoticed by the public eye.

“Consumers are increasingly more aware and more demanding. Blockchain will support greater ethics and social responsibility from businesses. Consumers will be able to make better informed choices and the farmers are sure to get their fair share as well,” says Bobby from Pure Grow Africa.

Quality of food means also secure provenance: origins of food and traceability in the supply chain. This has always been a problem in the food industry, creating notable scandals around the world, such as the horse meat scandal in the UK and sawdust found inside cheese in the US. Now, thanks to blockchain technology we are able to address this.

Furthermore, an open-sourced practice will ensure farmers are not ‘left at the mercy of traders’ and middlemen, bringing value to small scale farming and allowing the market to operate fairly. They will have open access to information, input and resources to help them manage their production.

Empowering women: The key to food security

This new farming model also takes women farmers into account, who have been sustaining farming but receive little or no recognition for their crucial role in feeding Africa. Despite women making up the majority of farm workers — over 50% in Sub-Saharan Africa — on average only 15% of landholders are women, and they receive less than 10% of available credit.

Discriminatory regulations and one-sided practices are depriving women of their land, rights, and livelihoods. Technologies such as blockchain and smart contracts can provide secure land registry systems and can also ensure widening access to credit without discrimination, allowing women to grow their productivity.

Having the power of access to funding in their hands, female farmers can not only purchase more seeds and fertilisers, but also scale up their production by investing in smart technologies such as machine learning, drones and predictive behavioural analytics which offer accurate results for optimised performance, as well as lessen women’s physical burden through the use of machinery.

“Technology really represents the main driver of farming’s feminisation in African countries. Women who represent the lion’s share of agricultural labour will be the main ones to benefit from agri-tech innovations,” says Stefania Barbaglio, Director at Cassiopeia Services, which is working closely with many of Block Commodities’ projects.

The revolution is just the beginning

The implementation of technology into agriculture is just the first step towards building a more sustainable and equal ecosystem, where race and gender differences will no longer prevent individuals from reaching their potential. The aim of a blockchain-powered system is to build a solid foundation that will reach other sectors in African economies which could benefit from innovation to enhance transparency, accountability and efficiency.

Technology is revolutionary for developing economies because it places individuals at the centre of the economy, building a model which no longer serves the interests of corporations and discriminatory forces, but instead allows small players to be part of the market and own their place on the global stage.

For Africa, we firmly believe that innovation can help to revolutionise the agricultural and food industry, allowing Africa to feed itself and become one of the biggest contributors to the world’s food basket.

Feed Africa to feed the world: this is what we believe in.

Watch this space for more updates on Block Commodities and blockchain projects in Africa. Subscribe to our FinancialFox YouTube channel for all the latest developments and news.

The internet’s darker side: Fake accounts and fake news threaten to poison the online environment

Nowadays, it is nearly impossible to imagine life without the internet. The virtual world has grown to be a seemingly infinite series of platforms where governments, corporations and individuals all come together; where we can find any information we desire and quick answers to most, if not all, of our questions. And within the vast online realm, social media has become the place where interpersonal interactions happen.

The internet was designed as an open environment. However, the concept was ambitious at the time and society has shaped it as a platform to share and access knowledge and information. In this light, monitoring and regulating such online content may seem to contradict the original principle of the internet, but this is the very thing that ended up happening.

As society becomes progressively more digital, we are facing challenges that once would have been unthinkable — and the solutions remain yet to be discovered. The nature of the internet is vulnerable to the creation of misleading content intended to influence people, which has resulted in the phenomenon of fake news. The huge viral effect fake news and fake accounts, which spreads particularly on social media, is pervading all aspects of today society.

“Fake news is everywhere, misleading us and building misconceptions about people and events. Because it is difficult to identify them in the first place, it is evern harder to address them. Fake news has become a crucial problem in society, effecting individual reputations, warping political elections and public opinion, ultimately threating democracy.” said Stefania Barbaglio, Director at PR Agency Cassiopeia Services.

Research by the European Commission showed that, 85 percent of EU respondents believe fake news to be a problem in their country, with almost 83 percent perceiving false or misrepresentative information as a threat to democracy.

Fake news is as much as a problem as fake accounts:

Research from Indiana University Network Science Institute indicates that between 9 to 15% of active Twitter accounts are not real, meaning it is very likely that less than 90% of current social media users are humans.

During the six months that ended in March 2018, Facebook disabled a total of almost 1.3 billion accounts that they were deemed to be fake. Out of the remaining accounts Facebook estimates between 3 and 4 percent are likely to be fake. This amounts to between 66 million and 88 million accounts in the network.

Fake News: A political weapon

Social media has become the primary means of communication and interaction for businesses, politicians and decision makers to reach their audiences, limiting the effect of the impact of mainstream and broadcast media.

With widespread political mis-information from the political realm on the social media , voters are increasigngly vulnerable to being manipulated by information fabricated to fit into propaganda.

The problem is indeed both dangerous and subtle, and the solutions to which are still being in the making. In the UK, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee warned that the UK is facing a “democratic crisis”, with voters being manipulated by “pernicious views”. The Committee highlights the “relentless targeting of hyper-partisan views, which play to the fears and prejudices of people, in order to influence their voting plans”.

Populism and fake news together represent the start of slippery slope towards greater problems of misinformation. In fact, Populist figures address societal concerns with high emotional appeal. The current wave of populists rejects traditional democratic values and globalisation. Fake news is one of their weapons to destroy ‘the establishment’ and turn people against democratic values.

A study from Stanford University analysed the 2016 US elections and found that there had been 115 fake pro-Trump stories on Facebook shared 30 million times, compared to 41 fake pro-Clinton stories shared 7.6 million times.

Harmful Social Media

Recent events have shown that social media’s biggest marke, developing countries — are the ones that have been experiencing the worst headache.

In June, India witnessed the murder of the eight people after rumours about alleged child kidnappers spread via WhatsApp. In 2017 alone, more than 30 deaths were linked to rumours spread via the app.

Given the circumstances, India, a country with 500 million people online, became the worldleader in internet shutdowns, as the government saw it as the only measure to prevent more violent attacks spurred. According to Wired, last year there were 70 shutdowns in the country — a big jump from 31 in 2016 and just 3 in 2012.

“Internet shutdown is the favourite go-to mechanism to handle fake news,” says Rajeev Chandrasekhar, an MP in India.

"Shutting down internet connection, can’t be a solution,’” said Stefania Barbaglio. "Bans, prohibitions, and censorship of social media are never effective in stopping certain behaviours and fighting misinformation. It is up to individuals to take appropriate action and make use of novel solutions to make effective change. We should acknowledge the inherent dangers that lie within the open environment of the internet, but also the new technologies which aim to empower people, will be pivotal in this regard. The Internet is evolving into a new platform for citizens, Internet X, to allow everyone to fully express themselves, share of information, data, and resources."

As much as it feels like the virtual sphere is contaminated, crises like this can in fact be used as a catalyst to build a better online space and build a stronger foundation for a fairer environments. They also reminds us of the importance of carrying the values that sustain our society into every public space — whichever shape or form it may take.

Fake News in Social Media: A threat to democratic values

Social media has become the battlefield for the opposing candidates in Brazil’s 2018 elections. With more than 120 million users in the country, WhatsApp has found itself flooded with false information and conspiracy theories.

Users and voters have been caught up in a web of lies and misinformation about the Workers’ Party candidate via group messages sent to millions of accounts, contributing to a fall in the candidate’s popularity.

An investigation by the main Brazilian newspaper, Folha de S. Paulo, has revealed that the far-right campaign candidate Jair Bolsonaro targeted millions of Brazilians ahead of the most critical elections in years using the messaging app WhatsApp. The scheme was financed by corporations and businessmen, an illegal move according to Brazilian law. The influence of this manoeuvre is believed to be skewing the election results towards a victory for Bolsonaro at the end of the month.

A study analysing 100,000 images shared via WhatsApp in Brazil found that more than half contained misleading or flatly false information: very worrying data evidencing the urgency with which the problem should be tackled.

The case in Brazil shows that the coupling of fake news and social media has become one of the strongest political weapons in the digital age, resulting in a feeling of distrust of traditional means of communication and endangering some of the most fundamental pillars of Western societies.

The problem is both dangerous and subtle. Fake news is not a straightforward issue: in fact, it can come in many forms, taking the shape of false claims, edited content, and material used out of context.

“The increase in actions over internet-based communications is a reflection of people’s concerns about their online reputations and the ease with which damaging information about individuals and businesses can be shared and spread,” said Keith Mathieson, head of media at City law firm RPC to the Guardian.

In a society in which civil principles are a priority, fighting fake news is a must, but developing solutions for such a complex problem requires a lot of work, as well as a clear understanding of the dynamics of online interactions and their consequences.

The solution: Creating an environment where individuals can exercise their right of reply

In many countries around the world, Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, has partnered with fact-checking agencies to evaluate the veracity of information arising in the network. But the efforts made by the social giant are evidently not enough to stop the spread of fake news.

One essential point is to enable victims of fake claims to have a relevant space to tell their truth.

“We are not able to draw a line between what is fake news and what is not, but what we can do is show both sides to a story, giving more detailed information about that story,” says digital reputation and digital activist Matteo Flora, whose new venture Right of Reply offers disruptive solutions for online reputation problems.

Right of Reply is developing a series of blockchain-powered applications to be integrated by online media, which will allow any of its users mentioned in online content to reply directly in a timely manner. Such a platform empowers both readers and personalities, because once provided the multiple facets of a same story, users will be better equipped to judge the truth of a story for themselves.

Right of Reply is based on a unique, disruptive, patented, and yet simple idea: RoR places an overlaying reputation layer upon the internet, newspapers and social media, so that the comment is embedded in the article posts and can be seen by everyone.

“A person mentioned or cited has their reply embedded directly within the content which cites or mentions them. Readers can access the reply directly, allowing the reply to have the same positioning, timing and relevance as the original content.”

“Thanks to blockchain, we can now directly address the problem of fake news. There is no need for third parties to defend or act as guarantor or solution provider anymore, as any individual or enterprise now has the opportunity and the power of action directly at the source,” says Stefania Barbaglio from Right of Reply.

Fighting for gender equality in African farming: Empowering Women to achieve food security

Women hold the key to food security in Africa, say FAO and the African Union. However, the gender gap in farming is wide and opportunities remain unequal between men and women. How to close the gap? Enter technology and innovation.

A report from FAO and the African Union (AU) says that addressing the gender inequalities in Africa is a necessary step to end hunger by 2025. Indeed, a lot of work is still to be done here.

Figures show a significant gap between men and women in African farming: the female share of the agricultural labour force in sub-Saharan Africa is the highest in the world. In most sub-Saharan countries, women represent more than 50 percent of the workforce; in some areas more than 60 percent.

Yet, despite women making up the majority of farm workers, on average only 15% of landholders are women, and they receive less than 10% of available credit. The lack of access to financial services is only one of the factors putting women at a disadvantage in this scenario.

Female African farmers face many obstacles: denial of land rights, lack of access to lines of credit and appropriate technologies, and gaps in skills and information. In addition, female farmers are victims of very similar challenges facing many women worldwide: time constraints due to the hours of household work they are expected to perform on top of their farming activities.

In terms of production, women are also lagging behind men because they have limited access to agricultural extension services, preventing them from adopting technologies that would help increase their yields. As a result, a yield gap between men and women of 20% to 30% has been noted.

In a world where policies can be slow to address inequality, there is benefit in realising that technology can offer practical solutions to the long-standing problems that have deprived women from carving their place in the business, thus allowing the journey to gender equality to move forwards.

Technology for women empowerment

"When we look at the problems holding back production from smallholder farmers, such as lack of information and financial exclusion, we think those can all be solved with technology that is available to use," says Clinton van Eden, Head of Africa Operations of Block Commodities, a leading AgriTech company in Sub-Saharan Africa.

"Lack of information, funding and financial incentives, and the poor exchange practices hold back farmers’ production by 50% of its potential if the system worked at an optimal level."

One of the main issues holding back women from being more active in this sector is the lack of adequate documentation for land rights. The African Union gender equality commitments focus on achieving 30 percent documented land ownership and 50 percent finance for women by 2025.

Inequitable laws and practices are depriving women of their land, rights, and livelihoods. Technologies such as blockchain and smart contracts can provide secure land registries systems, as is already taking place in African countries.

Technological innovation can also ensure widening access to credit without discrimination, allowing women to grow their productivity. Local interest rates to purchase fertilisers can be as high as 45%, so they are not a viable option for smallholder farmers. Block Commodities is developing a system in which this rate can be reduced to 12% thanks to blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

“Our project represents a potentially significant reset for finance and commodities market development in Africa, a problem that is being addressed by bold and innovative technologies and partnerships. We are helping to empower African farmers through loans to purchase fertilizer and have better access to markets," says Chirs Cleverly, chairman of Block Commodities and advocate for black women’s rights.

Smart technologies such as machine learning, drones and predictive behavioural analytics offer accurate results for optimised performance, as well as lessening women’s physical burden through the use of machinery.

"New technologies are coming in to disrupt this model bringing access, data, and new resources. A single smartphone app can facilitate many processes, such as seamless payments, data gathering and comparing, resource locating and analysis. New technologies represent an invaluable opportunity for smart farming as they promote automation of agricultural processes, making muscular strength redundant" says Stefania Barbaglio, Director at Cassiopeia Services, which is working closely with many of Block Commodities’ projects.

"Technology really represents the main driver of farming’s feminisation in countries like Africa. Women who represent the lion’s share of agricultural labour will be the main ones to benefit from AgriTech innovations. We want to see women empowered and able to provide for their families."

Women also take fewer cooperative positions and leadership roles. Technology applications can not only improve production output but also provide them with the tools to help them raise their voices, ensuring they have a place in key conversations and expanding their influence in decision-making strategies.

Moreover, technology enables food security and development programmes to be taken beyond the agricultural sphere, contributing to other sectors such as infrastructure and education, promoting the narrowing of the gender gap in a multi-sectorial approach.

Community of farmers in Zambia

Real life impact is already tangible

Positive change is already noticeable in the life of farmers who are benefitting from innovation programmes.

Monica is a young smallholder farmer from Zambia who took her production from subsistence to commercial scale thanks to Block’s outreach. Block’s low-interest loan enabled Monica to produce enough 8 tons of maize, which is enough for her and her family, as well as a surplus which was commercialised and turned into income. Monica is now earning nearly 70% more than the Zambian minimum wage.

‘The core aim of technological developments is ultimately to improve human lives and drive positive change in the world. Technology is able to overcome this gender divide in African agriculture caused by years of unequal rights, discriminatory policies and government bureaucracies because technology sees no gender, it is made to create effective solutions,’ adds Chris Cleverly.

The power of crypto community: The First UK DigiByte Event is on

Cassiopeia Services, the leading blockchain PR agency, is thrilled to host the first DigiByte event in the UK on November 18th in Central London. The founder of Digibyte blockchain Jared Tate will be attending on his way back to the US from Norway, where he will be presenting at the CryptoFinance Conference in Oslo.

DGB followers, investors and supporters will have the unique opportunity to meet Jared, aka DigiMan, face to face and hear from him about DigiByte’s news and his next plans.

Other special guests include well-known Steemit ambassador Stephen Kendal and ‘Deano Digi’, joint founder of DGBAT, the DGB Awareness Team.

We are proud to ‘make things happen’ in the crypto space: “We are introducing an innovative approach to crypto communities, bringing reality and personal relationships into a world where most interactions only take place online and a great deal of projects in this space are untrustworthy and illegitimate,” said Stefania Barbaglio, founder of Cassiopeia.

“Why do we support DigiByte? It was one of the first crypto coins to hit the market in the pre-ICO days of 2014 and since then has been growing organically, creating one of the largest and strongest online communities. We want more people in the UK to meet this community and understand that the world is moving in a new direction,” she added.

Digibyte (DGB) is a true grassroots coin. It is largely decentralised, which means full user autonomy, and has a strong use case: It is much 40 times faster than Bitcoin, for example, and transactions cost a lot less. DigiByte blocks occur on the network every 15 seconds, making DigiByte the fastest UTXO blockchain in the world today with one of the lowest fees.

It is also more secure as transactions, mining and blockchain distribution are as decentralised as possible. Because of its speed, DigiByte boasts the longest blockchain and its structure makes it cross-compatible with any other blockchain.

Digibyte ranks within the top 40 crypto coins by Market Cap (35th as we write today) according to coin marketcap, and predictions from crypto experts show that DGB has a 132% growth potential by the end of the year.

But what makes DGB so unique? The power of decentralization.

“The beauty of decentralisation is that you can do multiple things with it. Blockchain is a paradigm shift in the architecture of the internet,” said DigiByte founder Jared Tate in an interview with Stefania on Financial Fox TV Show.

A decentralised asset like blockchain can address the vulnerabilities in the current architecture of the internet. Decentralisation empowers individuals to use the technology for their needs and projects. Because of its strong use case, DGB is coin with a bright future: it aims to provide feasible and effective solutions to systems that are heavily centralized and address the structural flaws in the internet to build an environment where participants are sovereign.

As Jared recognized, there is a level of concern about the current hype around ICOs, as the ICO market can be overestimated at the times, with many coins failing to succeed and provide returns. However, the projects which do survive are more user-friendly and have greater ability to develop and scale, like DGB. Cryptocurrencies like DGB, for example, show that it is possible to create a financial system that is detached from political and economic factors, and international currency fluctuation.

The loyal and supportive DGB community proved this: the DGB Foundation designed the ‘Venezuela Project’ and chose Venezuela to run a real-life experiment in mass cryptocurrency adoption applying blockchain to development causes, education and outreach.

‘Blockchain is a worldwide phenomenon. We’re at the point where everyone has realised that this technology is not going away; it is a paradigm shift in computer science and the architecture of the internet,’ says the DigiByte founder.

Cassiopeia looks forward to meeting Jared Tate and all of the DigiByte Community on Sunday 18th November in Central London for a unique and epic event. This is a private event: entry is granted via registration only. More info on the event and registration form can be found here.

‘Crypto is not real money’? Google shows itself to be clueless about crypto

Google recently released an ad for its new product ‘Call Screen’, where it pokes fun at crypto mining, stating that the activity costs more in energy than the profit made. The Google Call Screen ad describes cryptocurrencies as ‘money that isn’t real’, implying that mining coins to get revenue would be foolish.

Ad for Google's Call Screen

A year after the big Bitcoin boom, cryptocurrency has become a more widespread concept and the crypto market more mature, with altcoins also sparking interest.

It is surprising that a company of Google’s standing would publicly express this level of scepticism towards crypto and blockchain, says Stefania Barbaglio, crypto PR expert and founder of Cassiopeia Services: ‘It demonstrates only superficial knowledge of the crypto space, showing that Google is clueless about the potential behind crypto.’

Stefania Barbaglio’s interview on Bloxlive.tv

Google pokes fun at crypto

It is well known that Bitcoin mining consumes a lot of energy, so it is not a profitable activity for the average individual. However, the crypto market is filled with altcoins designed differently from Bitcoin in this respect. At this point, viewing Bitcoin as the flagship cryptocurrency shows little knowledge of, and disregard for, today’s fast-growing, diverse crypto market.

Fundamentally, Bitcoin was developed in proof-of-work (PoW), a process that requires considerable energy. However, the newer generation coins employ proof-of-stake (PoS), which is less energy consuming, increasing the advantage for individual miners. To mention only a few such altcoins: Cardano works on proof-of-stake (PoS) and now Ethereum is about to move to its Casper proof-of-stake model, which will substantially reduce mining competition and the like; NEO and Hyperledger are the next-generation coins with even lower electricity costs and related carbon footprints. Cryptocurrencies are evolving and making their system more efficient in the process.

Looking at the big picture, even the expensive Bitcoin cryptocurrency mining is overall much cheaper than the traditional banking system as a whole. Aside from that, crypto is much more than digital money. The blockchain technology that underpins cryptocurrencies has proved to be a game-changer, challenging the established ways of doing business and transacting, taking away the central power from big institutions while empowering individuals with greater access to and control over their own transactions.

‘Google is a centralised system: it wants to protect itself and show that its centralised worldwide data system is still the leader. Unfortunately, we have reached a tipping point with blockchain shifting the power paradigm of centralisation to decentralisation. What smart tech companies should do is to adopt forward-thinking, inclusive strategies to integrate these new technologies into their systems’ she says.

The role of some cryptocurrencies is to facilitate transactions without traditional money and the associated banking system, allowing wider access, fighting inflation and reducing third-party fees. The irony for Google is that some cryptocurrencies are indeed used just as money would be to pay for goods and services.

Among its many applications, blockchain can after all be a challenger to Google’s solid dominance online, as it allows for different types of search engines to emerge, such as a human search engine, where users participate in the process of filtering information and help clarify the search request.

Stefania also highlights that Google’s stance on blockchain and crypto does not affect the crypto community: if anything, it clearly shows Google’s limited knowledge of the crypto space and its opportunities.

The released ad represents a controversial move by Google, just days after it reverted its ban on crypto ads in a few countries, when the company signalled a more welcoming attitude towards crypto. Earlier this year, Google had banned Chrome browser mining plug-ins, and then all cryptocurrency ads from its platform, with the aim of protecting its customers from potential scams and misleading services that could be found in the crypto space — only to ease out the ban a few months later once it realised that the move had been a mistake.

’Google realised how big the crypto market is, and the opportunity they would be missing out on if they weren’t flexible — that’s why they had to revert their ban on crypto ads,’ says Stefania. ‘The crypto advertising market is huge, so putting a ban on Google ads would prevent them (Google) from making money and reaping the benefits of this significant crypto community and industry. It seems that Google contracted a case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Google wants a cut of the crypto trading profit and markets, so has turned on the green light for these institutions.’

Other tech giants have also started to embrace the technology. Facebook had partially lifted its own crypto advertising ban in mid-June and it is said that Zuckerberg has employed a blockchain research group, even if its purpose is not yet clear.

Smart Cities: Deploying disruptive technologies to build the future of urban spaces

New technologies are emerging to help build cities that are prepared for sustainable development, population growth and widespread internet access. Such developments address some of the most fundamental problems in urban geography such as housing, infrastructure, traffic, overcrowding, support of increasing population growth and sustainable living for future generations.

Governments in some parts of the world are embracing disruptive technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain to create effective solutions for the challenges faced by megacities.

As the global population will continue to grow, urbanisation is expected to add 2.5 billion people to cities across the globe over the next 30 years. The effective use of data and digital tools can provide smart solutions to problems arising from rapidly expanding populations.

The engineering behind the structure of smart cities combines multiple digital tools such as location sensing, cloud computing and mobile connectivity.

McKinsey estimates that smart-mobility applications could create up to $70 billion in value and forecasts suggest that by 2023 the smart cities market will be a US$7.6 billion Telco opportunity for mobile service providers (MSP) and network vendors.

Despite the figures above, the real positive impact of smart cities cannot be measured in economic growth or market size; it is instead reflected in better quality of life, more effective public services and sustainable lifestyle.

It is all about connectivity. Smart cities are, above all, cities made for people. They are designed to address structural inefficiencies and prepare urban areas for future growth and coming generations.

Whilst different locations require specific measures, there seems to be a global move towards smart, sustainable development, supported by disruptive technology. The Asia-Pacific region tops the tables on smart city strategies, making up 42 percent of global investments in smart city technology initiatives.

India

One of the most populous countries in the world, UN data shows that by 2050, India will have 404 million more people in its cities.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi outlined his vision when he launched a strategy in 2015 to build 100 smart cities in the country. The initiative seeks to invest more than $15 billion over the next few years to build and implement efficient infrastructure and management solutions.

The initiative also aims to attract foreign investment and job opportunities to these locations, promoting them as manufacturing hubs in a forward-thinking country.

Among the projects in the strategy are affordable housing, integrated multi-modal transport, creation and preservation of open spaces, and waste and traffic management, among others.

Each of the selected cities will have a Smart City Centre (SCC), which functions as the city’s technology central system where digital technologies are integrated with social, physical, and environmental aspects of the city, to enable centralised monitoring and decision making.

In the SCC architecture, Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as sensors, GPS equipment and cameras located in open spaces collect and transmit data through a communication network to a central facility. Applications then convert the data and information received into insights to facilitate the decision support system. The SCC structure enables real-time monitoring and quick incident response management in city operations.

Even it is still early days in their Smart Cities mission, results are already visible. In Rajkot, the crime rate has reduced by 18% over the past two quarters. There has also been improvement in traffic, and the monitoring of cleaning work through CCTV camera has led to reduction in instances of littering, public urination, and night-time burning of rubbish.

With a third of the Indian population living in urban areas, the strategy is a way to better accommodate and improve the quality of life of big city inhabitants, making room for sustainable development.

Singapore

Few nations have understood the potential of technologies as agents of positive change as Singapore has. Singapore is the leading smart city in Asia and second in the worldwide ranking, just behind Copenhagen. The government launched its Smart Nation vision in 2014: “our vision is for Singapore to be a Smart Nation — a nation where people live meaningful and fulfilled lives, enabled seamlessly by technology, offering exciting opportunities for all.”

Impressive results have come from the smart transportation and mobility system which has been in place for more than 10 years. Using sensors to track buses, the data is used to identify problem areas and come up with effective solutions. Identifying where more buses were needed has already “resulted in a 90 percent reduction in crowdedness” and has reduced waiting times on popular services by three to five minutes.

The smart waste management program monitors attached on bin lids collect information on contents and location, with the information is transmitted to a waste management team through a central server. The waste collection team can then optimise route planning with the information provided by the sensors.

In the health sector, Singapore has implemented a central database, which helps doctors keep track of patients’ health records across hospitals, facilitating access to health services and patient record keeping.

As we welcome the fourth industrial revolution and let innovation keep on improving our lives, more systems are set to transform, bringing positive changes to society. Watch this space for more updates on technology projects in emerging markets. Subscribe to our FinancialFox YouTube channel for all the latest developments and news.

Blockchain to create a better internet: Digital Reputation expert Matteo Flora discusses how…

Blockchain to create a better internet: Digital Reputation expert Matteo Flora discusses how disruptive technologies can create a fairer online world

‘Thanks to Blockchain and AI, people can directly manage their digital identity and online reputation. This is game-changing and hugely powerful’

In the latest episode of FinancialFox, the well-known Italian digital activist and reputation expert Matteo Flora talked about digital identity and the challenges in managing our online reputations. Matteo is the founder of The Fool, a leading ORM company in Italy; and part of the founding team of Right of Reply (RoR), the fast-growing UK-based technology company boasting a cutting-edge blockchain-powered online reputation management platform with AI integration.

At the moment, users do not make use of many tools to respond to online content, due to the fast pace at which social media moves. As a result, people’s reputations are affected, often negatively and permanently.

Matteo is driven by the desire to democratise the right of reply ‒ a legal right in many countries ‒ to ensure that every individual can provide their own version of the story, helping build a fairer internet.

In his new venture, the start-up Right of Reply (RoR), Matteo is helping develop effective solutions to these problems. RoR’s cutting-edge applications are powered by blockchain and AI technology, both of which represent the latest digital revolution.

‘Thanks to Blockchain and AI, people can directly manage their digital identity and online reputation. This is game-changing and hugely powerful,’ he says. ‘RoR places an overlaying reputation layer upon the internet, newspapers and social media, so the comment is embedded in the article posts and can be seen by everyone.’

RoR is the first solution of its kind, creating a space for fair debate where participants in a story can provide their versions simultaneously, in the same online space and with same relevance: ‘RoR will be fully developed and widespread in a couple of years, then people around the world will have the means to access information that right now only VIPs paying huge amounts of money can get. It gives everyone the possibility to reply to online content.’

Matteo Flora talks to Crypto Guru Stefania Barbaglio on FinanciaFox

RoR’s platform is unique because it will offer a new tool to improve the quality of content that is already available: ‘Right now, Google deals with all the information we find online. But there is no way to integrate the users’ opinions. They are different missions: Google wants to retrieve information, whereas RoR wants everyone to be able to respond to this information — indeed, exercise their right of reply. Google is only dealing with content; we are dealing with the underlying stories behind that content,’ says Matteo.

Matteo believes that the boundaries between fake news and opinion are very blurred, nd that the solution to such a complex issue is to allow all participants in a story to give their respective versions. Platforms like RoR can be effective in the fight against fake news because they show how different sides of a story all contribute to one truth. ‘We are not able to draw a line between fake news and opinion, but what we can do is show both sides to a story, giving more detailed information about that story.’

Right of Reply (RoR) offer disruptive ORM tools. It deploys decentralised blockchain/AI-powered-systems to help people and enterprises manage their online reputations. RoR platforms, which will soon be released to users, has an important role in and contributes to supporting social justice by maintaining free press and fair media by providing management tools for online and real-world reputations. RoR is currently developing on 3 products for regulated media, online newspapers and magazines; credit agencies; and social media (RoR; RoCC and RoRKey respectively).

The pilot project will soon start in Italy. STAY TUNE

If you want to know more, contact stefania@cassiopeia-ltd.com